Jeffrey LewisIs the US getting out of the NPT?

Not everything in the 1970s was as lousy
as your haircut, Paul.

Seriously, I am asking.

Sandia National Laboratory Director C. Paul Robinson, reportedly in consultation with Administration officials, has written an article in Nature suggesting our nonproliferation efforts should shift away from the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) toward more NATO like structures. The operative paragraph reads:

Trying to create a satisfactory non-proliferation regime in the near-term by fixing flaws in the NPT, although commendable, will probably fall short of what is needed. The treaty suffers basic structural problems, as it freezes inequities by naming just five states as legal possessors of nuclear weapons, but all others are not.

The serious problem of what to do with the undefined situation for India, Pakistan and Israel — which are not recognized as nuclear weapon states in the treaty — needs to be solved, and soon. The treaty also suffers because it has insufficient checks on cheating, which has led to the emergence of major loopholes that must be closed.

In place of the NPT, Robinson argues for “forging alliances along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).” This presumably includes providing nuclear weapons to more U.S. allies: “My view is that everybody could become a [nuclear] ‘have’ by taking part in alliances based, more or less, on the NATO model.”


Who wants to negotiate the NATO-like nuclear sharing arrangement with Moqtada al-Sadr, President of the Islamic Republic of Iraq?

Robinson is no crack-pot … Let me re-phrase that. Robinson’s ideas often shape official policy and his writings, in turn, reflect that policy. He wrote an important March 2001 white paper based on his participation, as the Chair of the Policy Subcommittee of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Strategic Advisory Group (SAG), in drafting new terms of reference (TOR) for U.S. nuclear strategy.

The focus on alliances picks up a theme found in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and makes a tidy case for new nuclear weapons— which means more business for Robinson’s shop. As J.D. Crouch explained in briefing the NPR, “I would note, under ‘Assuring Allies and Friends,’ we believe that developing credible non-nuclear and nuclear response options were necessary to supporting U.S. commitments.”

Robinson’s article—which directly questions the Unites States’ Article 6 obligation under the NPT to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament— is the latest disquieting sign of hostility to the NPT framework. John Bolton articulated a similar hostility in a trio (1, 2, and 3) of speeches “elaborating” President Bush’s February 11 speech regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the need for structural changes in the NPT’s grand bargain.

Oh yeah: Thanks to John Fleck at for catching the article when it came out.